Namaste Teachers: Meet David Schlussel

Our Namaste Tribe is a powerhouse of wise, talented, and experienced teachers who have dedicated their lives to sharing the gift of yoga with others. We are constantly in awe of the incredible offerings our teachers bring to this community. We are excited to share a new blog series focused on celebrating our teachers and hopefully giving you all a glimpse into the talented team that makes up Namaste Yoga + Wellness.

Meet David Schlussel

How long have you been at Namaste?
I first taught at Namaste Rockridge in 2003. I dropped my early morning class there when my second daughter was born. I have been teaching at the location that is now Namaste Berkeley since 2003.

What inspired you to become a yoga instructor?
My yoga practice helped lift the veil of conditioning that was running my life. I loved being in my body, being more present, and the gift that yoga is. I wanted to share it right away. I found that I was always talking and sharing about yoga with people after class, and found I had facility for translating my breakthroughs into words, and could help people with their practice. A yoga teacher friend suggested I practice sincerely for five years before I went into teaching, and that’s what I did.

Your favorite literature on yoga or meditation?
Tantric Quest by Daniel Odier

Best advice you have ever received relating to your practice?
Practice less, more often.

Your favorite self-care practices?
Standing barefoot in the garden, micro practices (just spending one second being present, noticing my breath).

What is your morning routine?
Morning cuddles with the family, breakfast, kids to school, micro practice, business…

David

What are you involved with outside the studio?
EcoGameChangers, trying to gamify the redirection of our culture from consumerism to environmentalism, spreading yoga to the underserved through United Playaz.

How often do you practice?
A little every day.

Absolute favorite asana?
Schlusselasana, it’s a twisted thigh stretched bound pigeon.

Do you have a favorite yoga story?
A student came up to me after class a few months ago, looking at me curiously, then looking at his thumb which he was bending and straightening, then looking back at me, back to his thumb, and so on. He said something like: “I injured my thumb in elementary school. I haven’t been able to straighten it ever since. Until today, in savasana. You were telling us to relax everything, even things that had been tight so long we thought they were bones, and it relaxed and opened. I always had this pain in my hand (pointing at muscle that when clenched to the point of pain would keep thumb from straightening). Thank you.” He left sort of stunned and amazed and grateful. It reminded me how simple it is… Just be willing to feel everything, to question all assumptions, and to let go.

What is your favorite thing about yoga?
That it’s a quality of being that seems to slice through all challenges when applied.

What is something you wish all of our students understood better?
That it’s a quality of being, not an exercise program. We use the challenges in the physical practice as a forum for cultivating that quality of presence. It doesn’t matter at all whether how well we achieve the poses. What matters is that when we feel challenged, can we still find our breath? Do we still love ourselves?

David

What is your favorite part of the Namaste community?
There is a bright optimism in everyone that works at Namaste. There is a broad approach to yoga: we host many styles and varieties. It goes deep and wide. We have excellent instructors in many styles.

Thoughts on where the yoga industry is headed?
My fear is that it is headed towards “fancy exercise”. My hope is that it is headed towards global awakening. It all depends on which one we feed.

What is your favorite thing about the Bay Area?
The bay area is filled with openness, bright forward thinking, the brightest people, leading the charge in world change for what I consider to be the better. We have some of the best transformational courses, environmental activists, yoga teachers… Things are happening here.


DavidSchlusselProfileBDavid Schlussel is a yoga teacher, life coach, husband, and father. David experiences yoga as the practice of reconnecting with our wholeness. When we operate from our wholeness, we experience the incredible strength and flexibility that is our potential. David coaches his students from fixed ideas about what they can and can’t do, towards life as a playful exploration of possibility.

David began his exploration of yoga with Ashtanga, where he learned the benefit of regular consistent practice. He continued his training by studying Dynamic Yoga, where he discovered the deeper strengths available through activating along the muscular and energetic pathways of the body, and where he developed his passion for yoga philosophy. He is currently inspired by Anusara Yoga, which has infused his practice and teaching with an empowering understanding of alignment, therapeutics, and fun. David’s classes are a flowing celebration of our bodies, designed to exercise, educate, integrate, delight, challenge and recharge. He is known for his warm approachability, contagious curiosity, gentle and liberating hands on adjustments, facilitating healing of old injuries, and offering concepts that support his students both on the mat and in their daily life.

To contact David, email him at yogidavid@gmail.com or visit his website: yogilifecoach.com

View David’s Weekly Class Schedule

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Namaste Teachers: Meet Ken Breniman

Our Namaste Tribe is a powerhouse of wise, talented, and experienced teachers who have dedicated their lives to sharing the gift of yoga with others. We are constantly in awe of the incredible offerings our teachers bring to this community. We are excited to share a new blog series focused on celebrating our teachers and hopefully giving you all a glimpse into the talented team that makes up Namaste Yoga + Wellness.

Meet Ken Breniman

How long have you been at Namaste?
I have been at Namaste since May 2014. I am six months old!

What inspired you to become a yoga instructor?
My first yoga teacher was a 15 year old psychotherapy client that overcame his anxiety with yoga. He taught me so much and inspired me to get trained as a yoga teacher and yoga therapist.

What is your favorite literature on yoga or meditation?
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. While not a book on yoga, it does have a talking gorilla and asks us humans to live more mindfully on Mother Earth. To me, that’s as yogic as it gets.

1904122_915337828481727_8095162272778721847_nBest advice you have ever received relating to your practice?
“Stop taking it so seriously!”

Your favorite self-care practices?
Daily yoga nidra.

What is your morning routine?
Set an intention, a brief yoga nidra and asana practice and (weather permitting) a bike ride around Lake Merritt.

What are you involved with outside the studio?
I am a yoga therapist and LCSW with a private practice. I volunteer with the Living/Dying project. And I am aiming to be on my HOA Board (and I am certain yoga will help me there for sure!)

How often do you practice?
3-5x/week

Absolute favorite asana?
Handstand

Do you have a favorite yoga story?
It’s more a Buddhist story but I am moved by “the mustard seed” story where a bereaved mother learns how to accept loss as a sacred part of life.

What is your favorite thing about yoga?
It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

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What is something you wish all of our students understood better?
To quote TS Eliot:

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

What is your favorite part of the Namaste community?
How warm and friendly everyone is!

Thoughts on where the yoga industry is headed?
Yikes. That’s a loooong story that I am happy to share but in a nutshell I will paraphrase the wisdom of Daniel Quinn and say either we will figure out a way to deepen our yogic traditions within a capitalist system or we won’t. I am cheering on and believe that we will!

What is your favorite thing about the Bay Area?
That I can use the words shaman, energy, breath, and journey in one sentence and not be considered too “new agey.”


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In his classes, Ken provides eclectic non-denominational Hatha yoga guidance, honoring a variety of traditions, such as Iyengar alignment principles, invigorating Kudalini Kriya, and playful Acroyoga-inspired partner work.  He invites you to embrace SIMPLICITY, PATIENCE and COMPASSION as you deepen your practice and your connection with your true Self. Ken offers Yoga Therapy workshops on a variety of topics such as restorative yoga, grief, relationships, stress management and coping with chronic illness.  In addition to yoga, Ken also serves as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, clinical supervisor and a private practice yoga therapist in the Bay Area. Daniel Quinn and Paulo Coelho are among his favorite authors.

His life work of service is inspired by Ram Dass’ words:  “We are all just walking each other hOMe.”

Please visit Ken’s website at www.kenbreniman.com  or email him at kjbreniman@gmail.

View Ken’s Weekly Schedule

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Namaste Teachers: Meet Timothy Lynch

Our Namaste Tribe is a powerhouse of wise, talented, and experienced teachers who have dedicated their lives to sharing the gift of yoga with others. We are constantly in awe of the incredible offerings our teachers bring to this community. We are excited to share a new blog series focused on celebrating our teachers and hopefully giving you all a glimpse into the talented team that makes up Namaste Yoga + Wellness.

Meet Timothy Lynch

How long have you been at Namaste?
I have been at Namaste for 2 months.

What inspired you to become a yoga instructor?
Teaching found me, and seeing how transformational practice has been and continues to be in my own life, I began to share.

What is your favorite literature on yoga or meditation?
The Guru Papers by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad, Guruji by Eddie Stern and Guy Donahaye, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa, and Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach.

Best advice you have ever received relating to your practice?
Practice every day.

Your favorite self-care practices?
Listen to reggae, eat donuts sometimes, get plenty of rest, and don’t take oneself to seriously!

What is your morning routine?
Wake up, take a few sips of coffee and a shower, and get to practice.

What are you involved with outside the studio?
Right now, simply trying to acclimate to having moved across the country.

Timothy Lynch

How often do you practice?
Six days a week.

Absolute favorite asana?
The same one as my least favorite, Kapostasana…it teaches me the most about myself!

What is your favorite part of the Namaste community?
That I’ve recently been welcomed into it.

What is your favorite thing about yoga?
Unlike external things, it cannot be taken from you, it’s always there. Also, I really enjoy the idea that it takes so much effort, but it’s mostly about letting go…that relationship I find so interesting and forever complex.

What is something you wish all of our students understood better?
How to show up for themselves more, and to understand that they are their best teacher if they could only learn to listen closely.

Thoughts on where the yoga industry is headed?
Well, in all honesty… ok… I think the “yoga industry” has become very much reliant upon codependent relationships between student/teacher. For example: the student comes to class to see what the teacher has to offer them. Often, the teacher becomes a performer of sorts. This is sadly (in my opinion) moving away from allowing the student to research and develop self trust. Instead, students are sometimes left with some thoughts about their likes and dislikes of the teachers playlist that night, some criticisms or praise for the order of poses, etc. What’s left after class at times revolves around the teacher… this is not my understanding of yoga. Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind. When you blast music, pump loads of heat into the room, move students quickly in and out of crazy difficult poses, how can a students mind be at ease? It’s impossible. BUT, at the end of class they are completely exhausted from overstimulation, and feel like the teacher has accomplished something on their behalf. This creates a codependency between the student, who needs their “drugs” and a teacher who needs the students to validate the quality of their playlist, or whatever they need the student for. I’m not sure anymore.

The greatest gift a student has ever given me is to say goodbye and go in search of her/his own self practice. As I see it, a teacher climbs a mountain, stands at the top and looks into the distance. They stand strong so that their students can climb up onto their shoulders and look further still.

Mountain Top

I’m not against a feel good practice, I’m just asking, how much do we really need to feel good? Do we really NEED that much stimulation to be at ease within ourselves? Can the feeling of the sun on your face be enough? Can the vibrant color of a leaf be enough? Can dancing to our own breath be enough? Can seeing the sight of your mothers’ face after not seeing her for a year be enough? And most importantly, can what we already have, right here, right now be enough???

What is your favorite thing about the Bay Area?
Burritos.


TimothyWe arrive to our mat daily reminding ourselves that profound change is possible within a single breath. making effort and softening, extending and flexing simultaneously, we meditate on the relationships of what seem to be opposites. in this way, we make an offering of our attention towards unity and the interdependence of, well, pretty much everything.

Timothy offers gratitude to all of his teachers including Eddie Stern, Rolf and marci Naujokat, Sharath Jois, Surinder Singh, Alison West, and to Barbara Verrochi and Kristin Leigh who through there dedication and humility have been a great inspiration for him to continue along on this path towards self trust.  Most recently timothy received the blessings of Sharath Jois at the Sri k. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India, to teach Ashtanga Yoga.

View Timothy’s Weekly Schedule. 

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Namaste Teachers: Meet Erin Wimert

Our Namaste Tribe is a powerhouse of wise, talented, and experienced teachers who have dedicated their lives to sharing the gift of yoga with others. We are constantly in awe of the incredible offerings our teachers bring to this community. We are excited to share a new blog series focused on celebrating our teachers and hopefully giving you all a glimpse into the talented team that makes up Namaste Yoga + Wellness.

Meet Erin Wimert

How long have you been at Namaste?
I have been at Namaste 6 months.

What inspired you to become a yoga instructor?
It was the first thing that I really felt driven to do. It comes naturally to me and I’ve never taken this gift for granted.

Your favorite self-care practices?
My favorite way to care for myself is taking time to meditate and home practice.

Erin Wimert

What is your morning routine?
I recently got into juicing, which has given me so much energy and has been a great addition to my overall health.

How often do you practice?
Every day.

Absolute favorite asana?
I love back bending! I also really enjoy breaking it down and teaching it.

What is your favorite part of the Namaste community?
I love how receptive the students are.


Erin WimertMy name is Erin and I dove into the world of yoga in 2009. Less than six months later, I decided to take yoga teacher training and I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to leave my desk job and teach full-time. Soon after I was also certified to teach spin and barre classes as well.

I’ve spent a lot of time studying alignment and after taking a 100 hour Anusara immersion with Amy Ippoliti, I started to really find a nice balance between combining comprehensible alignment break-down with vinyasa flow. I also gained a great interest in learning about the chakra system and have enjoyed leading my own workshops as well as bringing this information into to my classes.

I feel in my heart that teaching yoga is my dharma and I look forward to sharing some time and space with you!

View Erin’s weekly class schedule.

 

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Spotlight on Seva: RISE Yoga for Youth

Every quarter Namaste chooses a local non-profit organization to support as part of our SEVA program by raising awareness and donating our mat rental revenue. This quarter we are proud to partner with the RISE Yoga for Youth organization. RISE empowers adolescents to be agents of change in the world. Through the physical practice of yoga, wellness education, and community building, students develop inner resources to respond to life’s challenges in constructive ways.

RISE offers a comprehensive education in hatha yoga for high school students, which includes instruction in physical postures, mindfulness, and breathing practices, as well as a series of life skills workshops on non-violence, self-esteem, anger management, conflict resolution, nutrition, drugs and healthy relationships. Unique to the program is a focus on teambuilding activities designed to help students explore their relationships with themselves, each other and their communities.

[This post originally appeared on RISE’s blog]

RISE Meet Sophia Corbett, a RISE Yoga for Youth Teacher at George Washington High School in San Francisco. Here she describes her observations of what yoga has done for her students and why she thinks it’s so important to bring yoga to more youth.

At the beginning of the school year, watching, listening to my students in seated relaxation, I didn’t know how it would be possible to get them to sit still and be quiet. They fidgeted, made obnoxious noises, shouted out at times and were just typical teenagers, trying to get a laugh. Fast forward to May, about 8 months after practicing yoga , 4 days a week, and I saw the transformation. We had decided to start our practice out on the back field that day, as it was beautiful out, and had invited a 9th grade PE class to join us for a little intro to yoga. As my students sat in a large circle in seated relaxation, in the middle of the field, the PE classes started to file out onto the track, noisily running around the field we sat on. And I looked at my students, serenely breathing, eyes closed, bodies still and I knew they had been transformed. That they had developed the ability to find peace among chaos, through the gift of yoga. I welled up with joy and gratitude.

Its important to bring yoga to youth because it provides them incredible life skills. The ability to control one’s emotions, to respond instead of react, to listen to one’s body, and find inner peace amongst a often chaotic world, are priceless skills that are not taught anywhere else in schools (in my observation). Students walk away with an invaluable sense of self-efficacy, that helps provide them the confidence that they can handle any situation, as long as they breathe.

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Learn more about Namaste’s SEVA program or make your own offering to the RISE Yoga for Youth Organization. 

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Sukkot, Yoga, and Packing Your Life’s Suitcase

by Aviva Black

Thousands make the pilgrimage, many fulfilling a lifelong dream. The weather’s balmy, so the revelry goes on all day and night with throngs of people engaged in the streets and lounging in open booths. You’re thinking Burning Man. But no, this is what Sukkot was like during Temple times. From what I gather, aside from people keeping their clothes on, Burning Man looks like a Girl Scouts’ convention in comparison. Good times. SukkahSukkot, the harvest festival we’re celebrating now, is one of three annual Jewish festivals (Shavuot and Passover being the others). We just got through kneading our souls and asking for forgiveness for all the rotten things we’d done in the past year. We’ve committed ourselves to delivering our best during this new year.

Sukkot is our exhale, giving us a break from intense soul searching work. It’s pure joy. Like the week spent in the sukkah, our days on this planet are temporary. So what should we pack in each breath? Put another way, if you had one suitcase for your life’s move, what would you fill it with? This is also a shmita year, the ‘sabbatical year’ 7th year of the planting cycle where traditionally, we’ve let the fields lay fallow. By taking a rest, the fields release what’s unnecessary and become more fertile and productive.

Take a step back and, without being harsh, evaluate what’s most vital to you. What stories have you been clutching and what have you been ignoring? What do you value most and what helps you deliver the best of yourself? On the yoga mat, this Sukkahis the perfect time to a) celebrate the practice that you do have and b) determine what you need to put on hold so that your body and practice can unfold more naturally. Do this and chances are you’ll feel better and your practice will actually deepen. Recently, the NY Times Styles section told of a traveling chuppah — a simple handmade wedding canopy that has been used by a web of family of friends for over a decade. People keep requesting this chuppah because it’s absorbed the love and hope of joint fulfillment from and for those that have stood beneath it.

You are not alone in your sukkah. More so, the shmita year attracts others to your open invitation. So choose wisely and make space for this bounty. Make the pilgrimage into the dwelling of your heart and see that it’s open, receptive and yearning to cherish and celebrate the most valuable pieces that make you and your life great. Aviva Black


aviva bAviva is a RK — a rabbi’s kid. Interweaving Judaism and yoga has enabled her to go deeper on the mat and in the sanctuary. She teaches conscious alignment and flow, and encourages students to take poses to the fullest, most optimal place in that moment. She asks students to trade in rigidity and self-doubt for discipline to see what’s possible, emphasizing that with patience and diligence, they can remain safe and still take amazing forms — folding, twisting, balancing and lifting off! Aviva has been practicing yoga since 1997 and began teaching in 2007. She is a former Anusara-Inspired teacher and I will never stop studying. She is so grateful for her main teachers: Sianna Sherman and Abby Tucker, with whom she is currently apprenticing, and her father, Rabbi Barry Friedman. Check out Aviva’s weekly class schedule at Namaste.

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Namaste Tribe: Meet Allison

Each week for the next few weeks we will be highlighting on of our incredible Namaste tribe members! With so many inspiring, passionate folks working at Namaste we felt it was a crime to keep their shining personalities from the rest of the world.

Meet Front Desk Staffer: Allison Jones

Who are you?
My name is Allison and I am originally from Florida.

How long have you been with Namaste?
I have been with Namaste for just over 3 months!

What is your favorite style of yoga?
My favorite style of yoga is Bhakti.

Any big dreams you are close to actualizing?
I recently finished my Masters in Counseling Psychology and a mentorship with an Intuitive/Shamanic Healer. Right now I’m working to start my own intuitive healing practice, and it’s very exciting!

What are you involved with outside the studio?
I host a weekly hip hop radio show.

What is your favorite thing about the Bay Area?
The people, the forests, and the fog.


AllisonProfileAAs a student of bhakti yoga, Allison comes to Namaste with an open heart and a love of service. Allison is a recent graduate of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and is drawn to spiritual and creative practices that facilitate the healing of past trauma. Allison is currently studying Intuitive Healing with her mentor and also helps run a grief-support non-profit (thedinnerparty.org). On her days off Allison can usually be found hiking in the Oakland hills or road-tripping to nearby hot springs or swimming holes.

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Namaste Tribe: Meet Sophie

Each week for the next few weeks we will be highlighting on of our incredible Namaste tribe members! With so many inspiring, passionate folks working at Namaste we felt it was a crime to keep their shining personalities from the rest of the world.

Meet Namaste Studio Manager (and Goddess of All Things Namaste): Sophie Geaney

Who are you?
I’m Sophie and I am from Oakland, right near our lovely Grand Lake studio.

How long have you been with Namaste?
I have been with Namaste since February 2011, 2 and a half years!

What do you do here?
I am the studio manager of all of our locations. I work closely with our amazing front desk team as well as the studio director and owner to make sure we are bringing our clients the best services possible, while also having the most fun possible. Along with managing our desk staff, I manage our Wellness program which has recently expanded into our Berkeley location, I am very excited about it! I really love expanding my role each year to encompass more and more – we are constantly growing!

Best advice you have ever gotten?
“Find something you love and make a living out of it.”

What are your favorite self care practices?
I am prone to headaches so I am often indulging in nourishing self care practices to ease the pain. My favorites include yoga, epsom salt baths, reading, massages and napping.

What is your favorite way to spend a Sunday?
I will most likely be out exploring California by hiking, canoeing, swimming, picnic-ing or cuddling under the trees. Even though I have lived in the Bay Area most of my life, I am still in awe of the beautiful and diverse nature we have at our fingertips. My favorite places include Point Reyes, Mt Tam, Redwood parks anywhere anytime and Big Sur, but my list continues to grow…

What is your favorite thing about yoga?
Yoga does the one thing that is hardest for me to do: it slows me down. For that, I am SUPER grateful! It is my goal to walk through the world as I do post yoga- all the time.


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An Oakland resident for much of her life, Sophie’s love and respect for the city (i.e. the Oakland A’s) has never waned. One day in late 2010 as she made her usual Arizmendi run, she saw the sign for Namaste Grand Lake’s opening. Although still in the middle of undergrad at NYU, she had an auspicious feeling that this yoga studio would someday occupy a special place in her heart. Two years later, Namaste is her second home as she is studio manager for all three locations. Yoga is one of the most effective ways to ground this Air sign and she is eternally grateful for the growth, community and all around yumminess that Namaste offers her on the daily.

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